Women Need Mentorship and Better Role Models
“Women need to know that they can reach positions of genuine authority, even in domains from which they have historically been excluded – and they need encouragement to get there,” states Prof. Salma Al Kindy, Dean of the College of Science and Professor of Analytical Chemistry at SQU, suggesting “Rotation of managerial positions to provide equal opportunities for both men and women and flexible working hours and good maternity package during child rearing years.”A role model for women in science, Dr. Salma is a recipient of the United States Department of State’s award for outstanding female scientist, in 2013. When she was appointed as Full Professor in the College of Science, her name went down in SQU’s history as the first Omani in the College of Science to reach this milestone. Her greatest contribution has been towards the training of young Omanis who end up taking leadership positions in the country. Below are excerpts from an interview with Prof. Salma on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
As a child I was greatly inspired by my parents and my older sister and brother. My father was a math teacher and my mother was a science teacher. My brother and sister were into science. When I entered the American University in Cairo, I was greatly inspired by my instrumental chemistry professor who made analytical chemistry the most exciting specialisation in chemistry. I found the idea of identifying compounds based on their emission patterns fascinating. This shaped my decision to specialise in analytical chemistry.
A successful woman is the one who is educated. Educating a woman is educating the nation. By virtue of the fact that women play a pivotal role in raising families, they are at the very core of the social and educational fabric of any nation. Since women are expected to raise children effectively, run homes efficiently and manage their careers simultaneously, I would say that excellent time management and striking a balance between careers and raising responsible future citizens, are the main attributes of successful women.
Women empowerment is definitely more than gender equality. Presence of women in the workforce is essential to increase the diversity and richness of human knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, participation of women fully in all economical sectors is needed to achieve economical development and sustainability and improve the quality of life.
Great effort has been done by our Government under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said in promoting women. Since the Renaissance, great effort has been made to empower women with equal opportunities and rights as their male counterpart. The Government has decreed that women should be given career opportunities and equal pay and should work shoulder to shoulder with their male counterpart in building the nation. To support the role of women, the Omani government has set a network of modern health services and social services throughout the country aimed at improving the advancement of women. These ongoing developments are a clear indication of Oman’s commitment to reaching economic prosperity and stability by ensuring gender equality.
Omani society is based on strong family ties. Girls should be encouraged at an early age to participate and take more active roles in building our nation. Society should raise awareness and stimulate interest in girls to penetrate careers that are traditionally male dominated. Omani girls should be nurtured to think positively about themselves and have confidence in their abilities first and convince others that they are empowered and deserve to be trust worthy.
Women in Oman are fortunate that the wise leadership of His Majesty the Sultan has afforded them equality of opportunity with men in education. This is clearly seen by the ever-growing number of female students in science, medicine, engineering and agriculture. In the Department of Chemistry, majority of our students are female. Since development of any nation is achieved through science, engineering and technology, the participation of both men and women is essential. Gender inequalities still do exist. Such inequalities are reflected in the lack of opportunities for career advancement, or obstacles in climbing career ladders by young women scientists, who are, at the least, as able, insightful, hardworking and competitive as their male colleagues. While there is some progress, women are still under-represented in top research managerial positions.
We already know that Omani women excel in education, but as regards professions and careers, they need to raise the bar for themselves and work tirelessly to fulfil their dreams and ambitions. I want them to realise that being a wife and a mother need not be a handicap to their personal development; by sheer determination and strong family support, they can have the best of both worlds. The advancement of women in science is hindered by the additional responsibilities that women are expected to shoulder within their families. Let’s face it: women do not have the same advantages as men do. True, we are now much better off than we were a few generations ago, but we still face a lot of hurdles when it comes to professional inclusion and progression. To reach the same status as men, women must work much harder. They must garner a strong base of education and experience, and blend them with interpersonal skills to get ahead. Women need to support each other through networking and mentorship. Finally, it has to be said that in some instances, women do not seize the opportunities available to them due to apathy or a lack of motivation. Some choose to maintain the status quo in our society and resist moving with the times.
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